As the 2014 B.C. Summer Games began in Nanaimo, gold medal-winning Olympian Simon Whitfield watched with eyes of wisdom.
The Games see young B.C. athletes in competition and Whitfield, who took a gold medal in triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics and a silver in Beijing 2008, knows the value of youth sport. Basketball, volleyball and soccer, as well as swimming and cycling, were among the sports he took part in growing up.
“I participated in all sports and then eventually found my way to triathlon and I think that versatility and athleticism served me well through the rest of my career,” Whitfield said.
Not everyone can earn a medal and athletes at the B.C. Summer Games, and elsewhere, have to learn to deal with disappointment, he said. Whitfield had to persevere through many difficult situations. He followed up the gold medal in Sydney with an 11th-place finish at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, before earning his silver medal in 2008.
He said Athens was an incredible disappointment but he learned a lot from that. He pointed to adversity he endured at the Sydney Olympics as he rebounded from a crash during the cycling leg to take top spot.
“I was involved in a pileup basically and rode my way back to the lead group and again, as a metaphor, I ended up turning something negative into a positive because when I caught the lead group, I realized how great of shape I was in and how I was really ready to perform because I was the only person from the crash that was able to make it back up,” he said.
Whitfield is a member of the B.C. Games’ board and gave the keynote speech at the opening ceremony in Nanaimo on Thursday. He said the Summer Games will be amazing for all the competitors.
“It’s an incredible experience for young kids to be here, these young men and women to be at the B.C. Summer Games, to experience the Games to experience not only the stepping stone to other games but also just the challenge of this Games and taking it all in, the camaraderie and the experience,” he said.